The Riddle of the Toy: Tips for Travel Nursing with Kids


By Andrew Ferguson

January 31, 2017



The Riddle of the Toy

My wife wears the scrubs in the family. She’s been a travel nurse for about a year. Our three-year-old son and I like to tag along. She’s the rock band, and we’re the roadies. I’ve taken to calling our son road dog, which his mother doesn’t find as amusing as I do. Not all nurses have a good sense of humor- it’s the job that does it to them.

What toy stays, what goes, or to storage it goes?

One of the challenges to this lifestyle is the choices that must be made when it comes to what stays, what goes, and what ends up in storage (or in the dumpster). I’m good at letting go. My wife is all right at letting go. Knox, he’s not so good at letting go. For instance, the “Tablet Incident”.

Knox got a hand-me-down, tablet like, electronic toy from one of his cousins. It took four double A batteries. The batteries would last four hours. It had a touch screen that required 3500psi of pressure to illicit a response. The music it played (when it worked) sounded like a drunken crooner with a throat full of shaving cream. It had a crud on it that was only a few minutes away from becoming full blown mold, and smelled like boiled eggs and pigeons. Knox ended up crying in frustration every time he played with it. Of course, he loved it.

One morning I decided it had to go. Mom was at work, and Knox was still sleeping. Normally, I would have to answer to Jeanie when she got off work, but that week she had three heavy patients, So her back was in no shape for a parental throw down. I knew this was my opportunity, so I struck. I threw the tablet in the trash, covered it with coffee grounds, and pretended innocence.

Knox asked about it a couple of times at breakfast, but I told him it was in the shop and quickly redirected him. (I wonder what parents did before they invented redirection? Timeout, maybe?). Things were going well, and I thought I was in the clear, until the puddle jumping. It had rained that morning but was a warm day, so I told him he could jump in the puddles before his bath. I was getting the trash ready to take out when the questioning started.

“Is that the shop?”

“Dad, is that the shop? Why is my tablet in the trash? Why is it so dirty? Who put my tablet in the trash? Does mommy know about this?”

He had laid eyes on his beloved tablet. I stuck to my guns. It had to go. I promised to buy him another tablet as soon as the store started making them again. He knew it didn’t work right, so he was satisfied with this answer for a while. Then Mom came home. He started ratting on me like a wise guy facing back door parole. I was physically marched to the dumpster and forced to recover the tablet. Luckily, the place we were living was a new extended stay, so it had a relatively clean dumpster. I learned a valuable road lesson that day.

You need to have your priorities straight when it comes to toy choice, and you need a system. For us, it’s about having educational toys that are also fun. They need to have travel ability. We try to have battery-powered electronics, along with ones that are rechargeable. If a toy passes the long road trip test, it’s in. If we have a place with a yard or are in need of larger toys for whatever reason, we buy used and then donate them after the assignment is over. This is a good way to teach Knox about giving, without depriving him of the toys that aren’t as cut out for roaming as we are.

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